A rare vase by an Italian architect recently sold at auction for $107,100 — even though at its previous sale, it went for just $3.99. The vase by Carlo Scarpa was sold by Jessica Vincent, a thrifter who bought it at a Goodwill in Virginia.
To the untrained eye, the vase may seem like a normal glass piece with green and red streaks, but theWright auction house, which handled the sale, says it is one of the rarest pieces they’ve offered in more than a decade — part of Scarpa’s Pennellate series for Venini, produced in 1942.
The technique (“pennellate” means brushstroke) is achieved when the piece is being blown by adding in colored opaque glass. The pieces in this particular series were difficult to make, so the numbers are low.
So, how did Vincent get the highly-coveted vase for just a few bucks? She was on her weekly thrifting trip in the Richmond, Virginia, area when she spotted it. She saw the signature on the bottom and had a hunch it was worth buying.
Richard Wright, president of the auction house, told CBS News the “Venini” signature on the bottom would have given away that the vase was expensive.
But, he said, it is unclear how the vase ended up at Goodwill. “Whether it was passed down in a family and somehow [they] lost track of how special it was and was donated to a charity, one can only speculate,” he said.
He said Vincent is “pretty savvy” and had a sense that the vase looked special.
“She did research and ultimately spoke with people on an Italian glass collecting Facebook group. And because of our position in the market and our history of producing these auctions, the people on Facebook told her to contact us,” he said.
The auction house estimated the piece was worth $30,000 to $50,000 and Wright said he was “delighted” it went for more than $100,000.
“It’s a very well documented piece of glass,” Wright said. “Carlo Scarpa is really one of the preeminent, most famous glass designers of Italian glass in the midcentury. So his designs are valued by the market right at the top.”
It followed another remarkable thrift store discovery, when a woman in Texas realized last year that a bust she bought at Goodwill for just $34.99 turned out to be an ancient artifact that was 2,000 years old.
Laura Young picked up the bust in 2018 and after noticing how old and worn it looked, she became curious and embarked on a yearslong journey to find out its origins. It was Sotheby’s consultant Jörg Deterling who was able to identified for her that the bust once resided inside a full-scale model of a house from Pompeii in Aschaffenburg, Germany.
The bust was put on display at theSan Antonio Museum of Artand then returned to its rightful home, the Bavarian Administration of State-Owned Palaces in Germany.